Corporation or Private Law Firm??????

As a paralegal, the decision to go from a law firm to a corporate setting is one that should not be taken lightly.

Up until a year ago I had been a paralegal in various law firms.  They were all different but in a way my work was always the same.  I was expected to know how to handle the files from the beginning of the case to the end and know when the attorney needed to handle certain things.  In July of 2007, I decided to try my luck at a corporate setting.  Not that I was unhappy where I was but it was time to try something different.  My experience has been exactly what I expected.  It is very different from being a law firm.

When you work in the legal department of a corporation your client is no longer the person that comes in from the outside.  Your clients are the people within the corporation.  The legal department becomes a “guard” to the various departments of the corporation.

As the guard, our responsibility to the client is to advise when it is ok to start a new endeavor, develop a new business, develop the business in a new country.  We are there to make sure that whatever the various business units or various departments are attempting to accomplish is not going to get the corporation “in trouble.”  The work is very varied but not always of a legal nature.  I spend most of my days looking through lots of regulations regarding various issues.  So that the attorneys I work with can better counsel the “client.”

I no longer have the luxury of being an expert in one field.  When I worked in law firms I was the expert in personal injury, insurance defense, pharmaceutical regulations regarding distribution of gifts to physicians and sampling to healthcare practitioners.  All of these I learned at different times of my life.  When I did personal injury (defense or plaintiff) I was expected to do just that.

Today my responsibilities vary.  Today I’m more of a business consultant, better yet, I assist the business consultant.  My job is to know enough about each business unit or department and what they do.  Then figure out what regulations they are covered by and try to work with to keep the “in line.”

Although, it took me a while to get used to corporate culture I am now enjoying it more.  It has been a year and a few months and I can say that I feel like I am “home.”

I hope this has helped you make the decision you need to make.  If not, please feel free to email me and I will certainly try to give you as much help as I can.  Although, ultimately, it is you decision to make.  I know money is important.  However, do not let that be the deciding factor.  It is true what “they” say.


Thank you for your support.

4 thoughts on “Corporation or Private Law Firm??????

  1. I sm presently a student in the Paralegal Studies program at Kaplan University Online. In the next year or so I will have to declare a specialty, (family law, ADR, etc.) I wondered, you mentioned that when you worked at a law firm, you worked in several different areas. When you graduated, did you have one area of law that you considered your specialty? Also, what criteria did you use to decide to switch from a law firm to a corporate setting?

    Thank you in advance for your input

  2. When I first started working I did not have any idea what it was that I wanted to do. I worked for a firm that had various departments and somehow landed in the personal injury department. I’m not sure how I wound up there. I enjoyed it and in my opinion it is probably the easier way to learn the procedures. My suggestion to you, is to pick somewhere where there will be choices. Once you are at the firm and you are comfortable with your work try to get work from other departments. Most firms welcome this type of initiative from their paralegals. In this way you can better figure out what you want to do without the stress of having to learn everything at once.

    I also think it’s important to find a mentor. Does not have to be another paralegal. But someone who you can go to with questions and who can point you in the right directions when you need that.

    As far as my criteria to move from a law firm to a corporation. I’m really not sure I planned it. It is not something was looking for. At the time I felt that I needed to learn a new area of the law and began looking into finance, securities, mergers and acquisitions… anything that was completely different from what I had done. This opportunity presented itself and I went on an interview.

    I really do not think one is better than the other. Each has their good points and their bad points. At times I miss the law firm and at times I’m glad I’m not at a law firm. I have to say that in the past year I have learned a lot and that was the main reason for wanting to move.

    Keep in mind that it is important to always learn something new.

    Thank you for your question and I hope I answered your question.

  3. Thank you for your question Alice. I hope you are enjoying my blog.

    This is a difficult question to answer because what may be a “pro” for me may not be for you.

    Off the top of my head, the one thing that most paralegals complain about when they start practicing, and for that matter attorneys, is billing. having to keep track of your hours can sometimes be very time consuming (which does not count towards your billable hours) I don’t miss billing at all.

    The other major difference would be the hours. It is very rare that I have to work late. Leaving at five is not a rarity these days. However, when I worked in law firms leaving at five was almost unheard of. Maybe because of the billable hours. This should not be the reason to pick one over the other. I didn’t mind working the late hours. I loved the work. I also believe that in a law firm there are more opportunities to learn and grow. I think corporate law departments have a long way to go to figure out where they should place their paralegals.

    I am a believer in paralegals working in law firms prior to going in-house.

    Again, let me reiterate, that these are my opinions. They may not ring true to everyone.

    I hope I answered your question.


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